In Philadelphia

June 7, 2008

I’m writing to you from the Sheraton University City hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I’m waiting for the other volunteers in my group to arrive so that we can grab some dinner amid the gothic churches and brick buildings of Penn. Our two-day orientation begins tomorrow. We’re off to Madagascar on Tuesday.

I left my home, Las Vegas, at 7 a.m. this morning having completed most of my goodbyes. Last night I had a going-away dinner at T.G.I. Friday’s, and it seemed to have been a great success. About 35 friends, family and guests attended the dinner and wished me well. My friends’ personalities and quirks were in force, and I realized then that I wouldn’t get to enjoy them for two years: Lance and his wearing flip-flops 11 of 12 months out of the year; Sara and her high little voice; the Murphy-Cohen’s laughter; Kyle with his bizarre humor; the coolness of my former editor at the university newspaper; his sweet sweet girlfriend (she made me a tiny painting of a heart to hang in my future Malagasy home); Jessica’s propensity for fun; Carmen’s dryness; and so on and so on. It’s very empowering to know that when I’m on the eighth continent, I’ll have a support group half away across the world rooting for me in spirit.

It was only logical that after spending a few weeks slowly acquiring items for my big adventure I would procrastinate packing until one hour before leaving for the airport. The going-away party went pretty late, leading me to fall asleep at 1:30 a.m. At 4 a.m., I awoke to two alarms and a haze of sleepiness. In this haze I packed for two years in Madagascar. Most of it was throwing around piles of clothes and trying to stuff everything into my duffle, backpacker’s backpack and a laptop case. For future volunteers who might be reading this blog, here’s my stab at packing for Peace Corps Madagascar:

  • four pairs of shoes (flip-flops, breathable hiking shoes, tennis shoes, and dress shoes)
  • two pairs of khaki Dockers
  • three button-down shirts
  • two ties
  • four pairs of pants
  • five shirts
  • nine pairs of socks
  • five pairs of boxers
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • wind-up flashlight
  • books (“Don Quixote,” “Sex, Drugs, and Coco Puffs,” “Paradise Lost,” “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” “The Collected Stories of Anton Chekhov,” “A Light in August,” “Norwegian Wood,” and a travel guide to Madagascar)
  • Asus EEE PC
  • Digital camera
  • two notebooks and pens
  • two light rain-resistant jackets
  • two travel towels
  • toiletries
  • batteries

I forgot to pack my harmonica and a money pouch. I’ll ask for them to be sent to me through the mail. And speaking of mail, I would love to receive your letters! My mailing address for Madagascar is:

B.P. 12091

I’m not sure when I’ll update my blog next. It could be next week, it could be next month. I apparently will not have Internet access or electricity while I’m training for ten weeks at the Peace Corps training village in Madagascar. Until then, dear friends, take care.